It’s never been easier to avoid church, skip church or exit church than it is today. And it has a lot of church leaders and Christians scrambling to figure out what’s happening, why decreased church attendance is happening and what it all means. Those are great questions.
On the positive side, a lot of the social stigma associated with ‘missing a Sunday’ is gone, and that’s not a bad thing. Self-righteousness and judgment should never have felt at home in church anyway.
On the other side, though, what’s actually going on? Is decreased church attendance a good thing for Christians to rarely/never/infrequently attend church? If you watch online, does it count? If you do your own thing, is that a good replacement?
In the last few decades a whole new set of questions has arisen that we’re not sure we have the answer to. Church leaders are scrambling. People are coming up with their own answers. And I’m trying to figure it out, too.
Complete bias here: I’ve spent over two decades as church leader. I’m hardly impartial. And we’ve been fortunate to see our church reach a lot of people in an era where most churches have plateaued or are declining. And at least half of the people we’ve reached didn’t used to attend church.
But all that said (this is hard to admit), I’ve felt the impulses to question the value of church attendance too (I wrote this post on that here). And a few months ago, I missed weekend services three weeks in a row due to travel. Truthfully, at first, I was relieved to get a week or two off. I chose alternatives (church online and personal devotions), but by week three I was aching to be back.
I missed gathering together in Jesus’ name.
Sure, I fully understand that church is not something you go to, it’s something you are.
You don’t go to church, you are the church. But the “you” in you are the church is plural (we are the church), not singular. And church is bigger than you.